Australian surfer dead after shark attack

BY AJA STYLES
Last updated 13:48 17/08/2010

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A surfer has died after being attacked by a large shark in Australia's Margaret River area.

A witness saw the man riding his board out to sea, 300 metres from the South Point surf break south of Cowaramup Bay, near Gracetown.

The witness told police they looked up moments later to see the board floating on its own. About 10 minutes later, it washed up to shore after being bitten in half.

Police said the witness then saw the surfer struggling near the shore with a serious wound to his right leg and attempted first aid by applying pressure to his leg.

Police and the RAC rescue helicopter raced to the beach about 8.15am (WST) after the 35-year-old man was retrieved from the water.

He was rushed to Margaret River Hospital for treatment, but succumbed to serious injuries. Police have not confirmed the man's identity.

The man is believed to have been attacked while surfing on his own, at a beach only accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicles.

The Gracetown area is a well-known and notorious surfing spot. A popular local surfer Brad Smith, 29, was killed by a shark while surfing at Lefthanders beach in July, 2004.

There were reports Mr Smith was attacked by two sharks, described as being great whites, but the type of species was never confirmed.

Local surfer Paul Paterson said lone-surfing is usually not a problem during certain parts of the year but sharks are known to follow whales and salmon to the area.

"There's a lot of whales in really close and that seems to attract the sharks this time of year," Paterson said.

"March, April and May is a very dangerous season because its the salmon season and it increases the probability of sharks."

"That inquisitive bite tends to be a little bit more lethal than a taste unfortunately."

He said South Point beach was a very protected spot and a good place to surf after a big storm.

"The last guy that got attacked by a shark was just around the corner, which is only about one or two kilometres away," he said.

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